Engineer who lived modestly donates $37 million to Pittsburgh Foundation. Mr. Suckling’s bequest, will benefit the Sewickley Public Library, the Heritage Valley Health System in Sewickley, and nonprofits and programs in the Sewickley region that help low-income youth and families.

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Those who knew Raymond Suckling said the mechanical engineer from Sewickley hid his vast fortune.
A World War II veteran who retired from Koppers Co. in 1985, Mr. Suckling drove a Subaru, collected guns, and liked Western novels by Louis L’Amour and White Castle hamburgers.
Unbeknownst to even his closest companions, before he died in 2014 at age 93, Mr. Suckling had accumulated millions including money he inherited from his parents and from his own investments.
Prior to his death, Mr. Suckling arranged for $37.1 million to be donated to the Pittsburgh Foundation to benefit charitable causes in the Sewickley area.
The foundation announced the gift Wednesday and said it is the second biggest gift in the community foundation’s history.
The largest was $50 million left by Charles Kaufman, another local engineer, who died in 2010.
Mr. Suckling’s bequest, which was finalized in December, will benefit the Sewickley Public Library, the Heritage Valley Health System in Sewickley, and nonprofits and programs in the Sewickley region that help low-income youth and families.
“This is an extraordinary bequest from a truly extraordinary man,” said Maxwell King, the foundation’s president and chief executive.
“In an age of pretension that’s often self-aggrandizing, he was the opposite,” Mr. King said.
“He invested wisely, was unassuming and very frugal,” said Yvonne Maher, executive vice president of the Pittsburgh Foundation.
Mr. Suckling’s gift will be added to the Raymond C. and Martha S. Suckling Fund which he established in honor of his parents in 1993.
He launched that donor-advised fund with $6,000 and during his lifetime contributed a total $670,000, some of which has already been distributed to nonprofits, including WQED, the Cancer Caring Center, Salvation Army and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
The new gift of $37.1 million will be allocated in annual amounts of $1.5 million with yearly grants of $500,000 apiece made to the library, the hospital, and to the Pittsburgh Foundation’s 100 Percent Pittsburgh initiative. The initiative will channel it to nonprofits in and around Sewickley that assist people in need.
At Heritage Valley, the money is targeted for a new nursing simulation and education center to be developed at its former nursing school facility. Nurses, doctors and caregivers will receive training using innovative technology.
“This gift demonstrates his historical love for the Sewickley community,” said Norman Mitry, president and chief executive of the nonprofit health system.
“For an organization like Heritage Valley to remain independent, philanthropy plays a role,” said Mr. Mitry.
Carolyn Toth, executive director of the Sewickley Library, said the money will be used to strengthen the library endowment, make capital improvements to its 100-year-old building, and enhance programs.
“We have found our own Andrew Carnegie with this gift,” she said referring to the Pittsburgh steel baron who used his wealth to create public libraries across the world.
Mr. Suckling, who never married and did not have children of his own, was born in Wheeling, W.Va., and has one sister who lives in Connecticut.
His father, an executive with Westinghouse Electric and Standard Steel Spring, died when Mr. Suckling was a boy; his mother was a homemaker.
He attended boarding school, Penn State University and the University of Arizona, and during WWII, served in the U.S. Army Ordnance in the Pacific.
At a party In 1986, he met Betty Hallett, a Michigan widow visiting a friend in Pittsburgh. The two hit it off and remained companions who traveled together and spent time with Ms. Hallett’s sons and grandchildren until her death in 2002.
Even after she died, her sons stayed in touch with Mr. Suckling.
“He had become part of our family,” said Barbara Hallett of Pleasant Lake, Mich., a daughter-in-law of Betty Hallett.
“We knew he had some money but we never knew the extent,” she said. “He always wanted to pay when we went out but we didn’t allow that. One of his favorite things was getting White Castle hamburgers. But most of the time we cooked dinner for him because he loved home-cooked meals like scallops on the grill.”
She recalled him talking about history — especially World War II — and playing cards and Legos with her children.
He mowed his own lawn and liked attending to the trees and bushes at Betty Hallett’s home in Florida, said Barbara Hallett.
Thom Hallett of Tavernier, Fla., recalled visiting Mr. Suckling after his mother died. They went to Sheila's Diner in Baden, Beaver County, a spot where Mr. Suckling frequently went for breakfast and ordered chipped beef on toast.
“He delighted in the waitresses knowing him there,” said Mr. Hallett.
Mr. Suckling also liked to hunt and belonged to the Edgeworth Club and the Elks Club of Coraopolis.
For the last several years of his life, he resided at an independent living facility for seniors. Just prior to his death, he “had signed up for power-scooter lessons so he could get around,” said Barbara Hallett.
After he died, some acquaintances questioned why Mr. Suckling hadn’t left all of his money to friends and family, she said. “We always encouraged him to leave his money to the foundation,” she said.

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